European research project ”BioP@ss” to enhance chip card security paves the way for electronic ID cards with EU-wide validity
Date: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 15:21
Chip manufacturers Infineon Technologies AG and NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH (NXP) and chip card maker Giesecke & Devrient GmbH (G&D) are among the eleven companies from six European Union (EU) countries participating in the European research project BioP@ss to develop a high-security chip card platform
BioP@ss is the biggest chip card research project in the EU. Its goal is to do the technical spadework for the introduction of an electronic ID card in chip card format valid throughout the entire EU. In addition to its function as an ID card, it will be capable of providing a secure means of authentication for services offered by governments and public authorities, with BioP@ss-holders able to identify themselves electronically and carry out biometric authentication on the Internet. The 27 EU member states have about 500 million inhabitants, and an estimated 380 million ID cards are currently in circulation.
The objective of the BioP@ss project is to make chip card technology even more secure and easier to use so that, for instance, EU citizens can draw on the services of governments and public authorities by using their ID card on the Internet. Potential services include registering a change of address, registering a vehicle, filing a tax return (eGovernment), casting a vote in elections (eVoting) and other services provided by the retail, banking and insurance sectors (eBusiness). The BioP@ss research project entails the further development of the security chips, the card operating system and the security software for the Internet PCs used by the citizens and public authorities alike. The aim is to ensure that the chips, operating systems and software conform to the various national ID document standards already developed by EU member states.
One example for such an ID document standard is the standard for the European Citizen Card, which is designed to enable EU citizens to file their tax returns from anywhere in Europe. This card enables electronic identification, electronic authentication and the use of an electronic signature in the Web.
In their contribution to the BioP@ss project, the two semiconductor companies Infineon and NXP are working on refining encryption technologies for chips. Another main focus is to enhance the data transfer rates between chip card and reader. G&D is developing an innovative chip card operating system which, by means of conventional Internet protocols (e.g. TCP/IP, HTTP, TLS and SOAP), will allow the chip cards to be used with Internet PCs without the need to install additional software components. The connection between the chip card and the PC can either be wireless or via a USB interface.
A number of European nations – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and the UK – have already announced their intention to introduce electronic ID cards over the next few years that will conform with international standards.
The BioP@ss research project, which is planned for completion by the end of June 2011, has a total budget of some Euro 13 million, half of which is being provided by the participating partners from business and industry. The other half is covered by funds from the European EUREKA clusters CATRENE/MEDEA+, which are provided by the national governments. As part of the German Federal Government’s Hightech-Strategy and the funding program “Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie 2020 (IKT 2020)”, the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting the BioP@ss project with Euro 2.8 million. One of the aims of the IKT 2020 program is to consolidate and strengthen Germany's technological lead in the field of information and communication technology. The support for BioP@ass is intended to further open up the international market for the chip card technology that Germany has helped develop.